Australia on brink of regaining Ashes from England
It is hard to imagine England in a worse plight as they brace themselves for another onslaught from Mitchell Johnson and co. in Perth.
They have not only been beaten in the opening two Test matches, they have been hammered and humiliated to such a degree that it is difficult to imagine that they will be able to recover sufficiently in such a short period of time to at least make a game of it with their rampant hosts.
Coral make Australia 4/6 to complete the job at the WACA and regain the Ashes (England are 5/2, the draw 4/1) and the time has already come for all those who thought that this would be another straightforward task for the England squad after three successive series victories to own up to just being plain wrong.
Australia have excelled in all areas, batting, bowling, fielding, captaincy and out-and-out aggression (in deed and sledge).
England, on the other hand, have wilted.They haven’t turned into a bad side overnight, but they weren’t that much better than the Aussies last summer when the 3-0 margin flattered them and are maybe now on the other side of the hill, whereas the Darren Lehmann-inspired Baggy Greens have found some self-belief and are now more than the sum of their parts.
So, on a ground where slaughtering the Poms has become a favourite Perth pastime – and that includes when Johnson and Ryan Harris took nine wickets apiece in their last encounter in 2010 – there is hardly a crumb of comfort to be found for Andy Flower’s beleaguered troops.
There will be some tinkering with the team. There will be only one spinner (and that may not be the disappointing Graeme Swann) and another quickie will be brought in. Messages are mixed on this front; it could be any one or two from Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn, Boyd Rankin or Tim Bresnan. Ben Stokes may be retained at number six, if not débutante Gary Ballance, making plenty of runs for the England Performance X1, might be thrown into the lion’s den.
But whoever plays, they are going to have to seriously knuckle down – and that chiefly means sticking around at the crease and not giving it away with rash shots – if they are going to escape another thumping and, worse still, the ever-growing prospect of a 5-0 whitewash.
It all looks good for Australia and the likelihood is they are going to dish out more of the same. Johnson is 8/1 to take ten wickets in the match and 7/1 to win a third successive Man of the Match award, but maybe it will be the turn of the excellent Harris (12/1 to take ten wickets and the same price to be Man of the Match) to stick it to England.
Either way, it’s going to hurt.